As I wrote about last week, I keep coming across the advice to play a bigger game, live a bigger life, which so many of us read as: take whatever it is you do to its logical conclusion. So if you make something, you owe it to yourself to figure out how to mass-produce it, to take your sales from where they are now to the millions of dollars. If you write, you must have a book deal and then go on book tours and exhaust yourself getting out there to where your fans are.
It seems it’s not enough to make a decent living from what we do. We have to get rich. We have to get famous. We have to conquer the world or we’re failures. Even though that world-conquering takes us away from the thing that we do that we maybe love to get there. The maker has to become an administrator to handle the marketing, the payroll, the logistics. The writer has to get published and then squeeze the writing in between book tours and appearances. The cozy little restaurant you love to hang out in becomes a chain and nobody knows who you are.
What if we take the economics out of it? What if, as long as what you do pays your way in life, you didn’t have to expand it? What would life look like then?
To me, it would look more like having fun. It would look like taking the time to really hone my craft, writing for a couple of hours a day just for the love of writing, just for the practice. And from that steadily growing pool of work, I can pull out the bits that I want to share with the world. And if the world wants to reward me with respect and cash, well, that’s lovely. But that’s not what will embiggen my life. It’s the practice of writing that will do that. It’s the wide-ranging reading I do. It’s bending down or reaching up to notice and care for my houseplants. It’s taking the time to deepen a friendship, improve my knife skills, dig deep into my home to make it a haven for my soul.
I know not everyone has the time or the finances to be able to do that. some jobs take up all your time and still barely pay the rent. Life with small children takes everything you’ve got.
But maybe living a big life involves stealing a moment to take a deep breath, let it out and take a look around. The kids will grow. The job will change or maybe you’ll be able to change jobs.
It doesn’t all have to be hustle. Bigger doesn’t have to mean busier or more expensive. The road to a bigger life may involve letting go of commitments and plans that don’t serve you.
It’s a bit like when you first start down the road to minimalism. A lot of people begin the journey because their house feels too small, cramped and kind of miserable. So they start to get rid of some things and the house feels a little better. Some more stuff and they find that the house is big enough. Some people stop there, but a lot of people keep going. And they soon find that their small, cramped house is actually much bigger than they need. So they move somewhere smaller and more manageable and their options, their life, expands.
It can be the same with the hustle. Give up the position on the board. Acknowledge that world domination isn’t actually your thing. Let go of a toxic friendship and days and weeks and months become available to you.
By living the kind of “small” life the sweat and hustle coaches would have you believe is a living death, you might actually be able to live a life that looks a lot closer to the big life of your dreams.